The Warning Signs are Still There

  • National Newswatch

We wish it to be over so we might get on with business as usual.  Sometimes politicians assist us in moving in that direction, as when American president Joe Biden recently noted that “the pandemic is over” – something Dr. Anthony Fauci wisely observed was a “matter of semantics.”  Canadian politicians are primarily in the process of moving on, preferring to focus their attention on a litany of other important policy issues: inflation, poverty, housing, carbon taxes, and the ever-present partisan bickering.But Covid-19 hasn't receded into the past, and it likely never will.  The record of its effects on us has been brutal - 4.3 million cases with 45,648 deaths.  Ontario had the worst count (14,495), but every province and territory had fallen into the pandemic's grip.  It has changed our outlook on life, perhaps forever.  How we view employment, the economy, our communities, our future, and even one another has left us unsure of how to proceed.  The old formulas no longer work, and the alternatives remain unclear.It's difficult to move on when new variants continue to fill our hospitals, and recent deaths are announced weekly.  Before the pandemic, we had received consistent warnings that things like Covid were not only possible but imminent.  We largely ignored those signs and blindly moved on.  We are now running the dangerous risk of adopting that attitude once more, individually, collectively, and institutionally.  While we may hope to get on with our daily pursuits, our health systems remain woefully underfunded, under-resourced, and under pressure every moment of the day while the Canadian population and its leaders continue to ignore both the potential and severity of future pandemics.With the Canadian economy threatened by recession and two years of pandemic debts to be repaid, the funds required to bring our health systems up-to-speed will prove difficult to secure.  And with a partisan political climate more concentrated on theatrics than the efficient delivery of services, the chances of inter-party cooperation to deal with the health crisis are minimal at best.Centuries ago, when plagues ripped through Europe, leaving millions dead, an awareness grew that such health disasters weren't merely a combination of individual occurrences but were societal dilemmas requiring systemic solutions on a scale never seen or planned.  Sanitation, cleanliness, garbage disposal, methods of human contact, and institutions capable of housing and treating the sick were essential to keep the horror from spreading.  Furthermore, the acceptance of poverty, hunger, inequality, dangerous working conditions, and unprotected tenement housing had created a Dickens-like world that came to threaten the very future of civilization.This knowledge is second nature to us, but we have placed an increased distance between awareness of the threat and the steps necessary to reduce it.    Disease has a context, fed and manipulated by societal conditions neglected over time.  Permit social conditions to deteriorate or remain under-resourced, and the threat to human life will be inevitable.  Canada has learned this lesson well enough to lead the world in healthcare awareness.  But knowledge without action leads to eventual decline.  Failure to address the problem is to accept it, and to tolerate it is to fall prey to our lack of watchfulness.This pandemic, and perhaps others, will go on indefinitely, leaving the vestiges of “long Covid” in its wake.  Long-term responses to the threat are essential but remain unrealized in a political system lunging for immediate power.  When a threat is universally acknowledged but unprepared for, it ceases to become a warning and becomes, instead, a reality, leaving millions suffering through a lack of preparedness.Some realities in life take on more importance than our politics, and human mortality is one of them.  When politics – the lust for power, dominion, and  ideology – dominate our lives, we give away our future to embrace a chaotic present.  As with many other nations around the world, Canada now runs the danger where bad and unprincipled politics leads to the decline of not only civilization but life itself.  Only cooperative politics can save us, and we now seem further away from that hope than ever.Glen Pearson was a career professional firefighter and is a former Member of Parliament from southwestern Ontario. He and his wife adopted three children from South Sudan and reside in London, Ontario. He has been the co-director of the London Food Bank for 35 years. He writes regularly for the London Free Press and also shares his views on a blog entitled “The Parallel Parliament“. Follow him on twitter @GlenPearson.